Friends, I’m so excited to introduce you to my new blog series!!! *screeches in enthusiasm*
This new series is entitled Caitlin Reads…, where (hopefully) every month, I’ll be reading a couple books that fit a certain theme. The first post in this series’ theme is—as you can probably tell—book bloggers’ favorite books of 2019! Other themes may include underrated books, book bloggers’ book recommendations, and more! Watch out for those posts. 😉
Not only that, but I’ll essentially be “vlogging” by reading experience. I’ll be giving you reading updates, while interspersing the post with pictures from my real life (e.g. what I was eating or looking at while reading), to make this blog post feel more like a vlog!
I’m not gonna lie, this series was heavily inspired by BookTube. There’s this trend going around it called “secret TBR,” where a BookTuber picks a few books that all have something in common, and vlogs their experience reading all of them. (Popular secret TBR videos include Reading the Lowest Rated Books on my Goodreads TBR, Reading BookTubers’ Favorite Books, etc.)
I find secret TBRs super cool, and I want to bring something like them to my blog! I also hope to push the limits of my creativity by challenging myself to translate reading vlogs into a blog-friendly format. This particular Caitlin Reads…‘s theme was inspired by a video done by Riley Marie, where she read BookTubers’ favorite books of 2018!
Without further ado, I present to you the inaugural Caitlin Reads…, where I will be reading four book bloggers’ favorite books of 2019, taken from their best of 2019 lists, of course!
Though I will give a disclaimer that (spoilers for the post but whatever)…. I rated all of these books 3 stars except one, which I rated 2. I don’t know what happened!! 😭 But, I’d like to remind ya’ll that 3 stars is a good rating for me! And if you were one of the bloggers featured in this post, please don’t feel bad that I didn’t rate a book you loved 4 or 5 stars! Your taste is amazing—never forget that. ❤
Krisha @ Bookathon‘s best of 2019 list was chock-full of diverse books, specifically ones by authors of color! One of the books from her list that I hadn’t picked up yet was Love From A to Z, which was at the top of my TBR!
What is Love From A to Z about?
Love From A to Z is an #ownvoices YA contemporary told through the journal entries of two Muslim teens—Adam and Zayneb. Zayneb has recently been suspended for standing up to an Islamophobic teacher at school, so she’s spending her early spring break in Doha, Qatar, with her aunt. Meanwhile, Adam has just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the illness that took his mother’s life, and he’s dreading telling his dad and sister about it when he goes back to Doha for spring break. Adam and Zayneb meet and form an instant connection on the plane ride to Doha, and from there, they fall in love.
Let the live updates from past Caitlin begin!
Page 25– I’m already warming up to Adam and Zayneb! I appreciate that Zayneb is an angry Muslim girl who won’t take any shit from Islamophobes, and that this book highlights the small—but still harmful—ways that Islamophobia is present in society.
Page 52– AHH, Adam is such a cinnamon roll!! You could kiiinda call his relationship with Zayneb insta-lovey, and normally, I would hate it because I despise insta-love. But this time I’m willing to forgive it because it’s written so well.
Page 89– I love that this book is unapologetically brown and Muslim. The diversity in it is *chef’s kiss*.
Page 180– This is so soft, and Adam and Zayneb’s relationship is so unproblematic. Talking to each other? Being mindful of consent? Having crushes on each other but not to the extent that it becomes creepy? Every YA contemporary should take notes!
I also love the way Adam and Zayneb’s marvel and oddity journal entries are being used to tell the story!
Overall, I’m rating this 3 stars, which is probably shocking to you because all of my updates were positive. Please take my rating with a grain of salt, because I 110% still recommend this book to anyone and everyone! It’s just that I got super bored while reading it, which is to be expected since contemporary isn’t my thing.
Other than that, I only have positive things to say! If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be powerful. This book is a celebration of Muslim identity; it’s a testament to how impactful #ownvoices books can be. It’s also so freakin’ happy to the point that it’s a little cheesy. But I think that was done on purpose to show us that this level of cheesiness can exist in the world!
Next, I chose The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli. I hadn’t really heard anyone talk about it until I came across Sofi @ A Book. A Thought.‘s best books of 2019 list. I was intrigued to see that she ranked The Last Namsara number one out of ten books, so I added it to my TBR for this post, knowing almost nothing about it!
What is The Last Namsara about?
Asha is the fiercest dragon slayer in the kingdom of Firgaard, slaying every dragon she comes across. But her father, the king, has betrothed her to the terrible commandant. The opportunity to escape her impending marriage presents itself when Asha is given the task to slay the most powerful dragon in the land.
Let the live updates from past Caitlin begin!
4%– So far, I’m flying through this, and it seems like my type of fantasy. I’m already warming up to Asha, even though I want to do less dragon killing and more dragon riding.
7%– Asha just had her first interaction with the person who I think is gonna be the love interest, and I can already feel the tension!!
9%– Even though I’ve been thrown into a whole new world, I’m catching onto things easily, and I don’t feel overwhelmed by all the foreign terms. I think that the stories and myths that we’re getting in between chapters are helping a lot with this.
21%– Um, this update is less positive. I’ve come to realize that this book is not gonna have much substance to it. I’m also not as connected to the characters as I would like, and I’m disappointed that so far, there’s no PoC or queer rep. Also, what kind of a name is Torwin? I can’t believe the love interest’s name is Torwin.
31%– Nooooo, Asha, why are you ashamed of your scar now that a boy can see it??
67%– This book has some things going for it. The plot twists are good, and the worldbuilding is a little interesting (only because of the dragons). But, I don’t care about the characters, so I don’t care about anything that’s happening.
82%– Asha and Torwin’s romance is not good, I’m sorry. Initially, I was interested in their dynamic, but they have no chemistry and their romance can be found in literally any YA fantasy ever!!
I rated this 2 stars. I’m sorry, Sofi—I still love you. 😭💖 The beginning was super promising, but this quickly proved itself to be a generic YA fantasy. I’m okay with simple books, but this one was *too* simple. The romance was pretty lackluster, and I didn’t know why they were even attracted to each other! The explanation we were given at the end made me go, “really?”
Lastly, why are there no PoC??? And queer people, for that matter. There are three different groups of people in this book—draksors, skrals, and scrublanders—and you mean to tell me that all of them are white?
I branched out of my comfort zone with my third pick, which is the first thriller I’ve ever read! Stephen @ Stephen Writes‘s list featured a lot of books that I’d never heard of or weren’t in my preferred genre. (He and I have different reading tastes, haha. 😅) While looking through his list, though, I came across a thriller called The Passengers, and I was immediately intrigued by the premise!
What is The Passengers about?
In a futuristic world, self-driving cars have just been invented. One day, a mysterious Hacker hacks into eight Passengers’ vehicles, setting them all on a collision course and broadcasting the event live on social media. The Hacker tells the world that they can save only one Passenger.
Let the updates from past Caitlin begin!
23%– I’m loving this a lot, and I’m already planning on picking up more thrillers after I read it! So far, I think my favorite part is the futuristic aspect. I love learning about how this world is more advanced than ours, and how these advancements are affecting society.
Just like the synopsis promised, the Passengers’ situations and backgrounds are all different. I’m excited to keep reading and find out how everything is gonna play out. It seems like the Passengers’ secrets are all gonna be revealed one by one, and I’m hyped!
55%– The way people on social media are reacting to this terrifying situation is disgusting and so insensitive. And yet… I’m not surprised, and I feel like this would actually happen in real life.
I’m sorry I didn’t update much while reading this book, but I think that’s a testament to how engrossed I was with it. It’s so easy to keep telling yourself “just one more chapter” while reading it, only to have to stop yourself from reading your fifth chapter in one sitting. The twists were mind-blowing. I did predict some, but others were so shocking and well-placed that reading them pulled me out of my body for a second.
John Marrs is a freaking genius, and you best believe that I’m gonna read more from him. The concept behind this book is amazing, and it was executed to its full potential. I’d liken this book to a Black Mirror episode!
That being said, it had its fair share of problems, which is why I rated it 3 stars and not higher. Jack was a caricature of a villain, and Cadman came out of nowhere just for the sake of the plot. Which, on that note, relied a little too heavily on convenience and coincidences for my taste. This might just be a preference thing, but I also found the pacing uneven because while the majority of the book had breakneck speed, the last fifty or so pages slowed down.
However, my biggest issue with this book is the fact that *spoiler* all of the PoCs in it died. Now, this is a delicate subject, and I’m pretty sure some people won’t see their deaths as a problem. But as a PoC myself, Shabana and Bilquis’ deaths were hurtful to me, and I didn’t feel comfortable with a white man writing them. My unhappiness with the choice to kill them off was only magnified by the fact that a few white characters, who had all done horrible things, in contrast to Bilquis and Shabana who were one of the only innocent Passengers, got away with their lives. Maybe John Marrs killed them off in order to commentate on racism and bigotry, but in my opinion, the message didn’t come across well, and he could’ve at least added PoCs to the book that didn’t die. *end of spoiler*
Despite my qualms with The Passengers, I can confidently say that I’ve never read anything like it in my entire life. It’s made me want to read more thrillers, just so that I can question my existence after reading a particularly shocking twist again.
If you plan to read it, please know that it’s pretty dark. I’ll leave the content warnings below. (Hidden, because they could potentially spoil the plot.)
Content Warningsracism, death of PoC, pedophilia, mentions of sexual assault, domestic abuse, cheating, terrorism, violence, depressed side character, mentions of suicide, loss of a loved one
I had already known that Tarnished Are the Stars was going to make Iris @ Hoard of Books‘s best of 2019 list before she actually posted one on her blog. Iris is such a gem on Twitter (so friendly and funny 😭), and this book is literally her brand!! She even dressed up as one of the main characters for Halloween (pictured above), and if that’s not a testament to her love for this book, I don’t know what is!
What is Tarnished Are the Stars about?
Three queer teenagers (an outlaw mechanic, the son of the corrupt Commissioner, a spy for the Queen) band together to defeat a classist social structure.
Let the live updates from past Caitlin begin!
9%– I’ve read exactly three chapters already—all told from three different perspectives, who I’m assuming are the main characters. I’m liking Anna and Nathaniel. And Eliza is fine too—it’s just that the fact that she’s a ~highly-trained spy~ was emphasized way too much in her chapter. I felt like it was being shoved in my face.
Right now, this is a solid 3 stars and I’m liking it. The writing is good; the worldbuilding requires a little suspension of disbelief, but it’s interesting nonetheless—we’re following an English setting in space!
48%– This is still an “I’m liking it, but it doesn’t have that wow factor for me” 3 stars. I love how well the author intertwines Nathaniel, Eliza, and Anna’s perspectives. I can’t wait for them to officially come together. I can already imagine Eliza and Anna falling in love, and…. that would be too powerful, I’m not ready for it.
However, I’m not enjoying this as much as I could because the characters’ emotions feel very surface level. I know that Eliza wants to rise to the top, Anna is grieving for everything she’s lost, and Nathaniel craves the approval of an abusive father. But I only know these things because of what I’m being told, not shown.
54%– Going off what I said earlier, Nathaniel is the character we’re being told, not shown, about the most. He went through a lot of character development in the first half, but it seemed really forced.
Also, I’m a little disappointed because our three perspectives have finally converged and the scene was pretty anticlimactic.
I gave this 3 stars, as I expected.
- This novel is so full of heart, with great themes and political commentary.
- The queer rep is A++, as expected because the author is #ownvoices. There’s ace and aro rep, which is so underrepresented in books. There’s also an f/f relationship and a touching discussion on labels.
- The world! As I said, English setting in space.
- Beautiful writing
- While the writing was nice, it was full of telling and not showing. 😩 And I think this was because some of the characters’ development were pretty unrealistic. For example, after interacting with Anna only once, Nathaniel was already thinking, “but Anna wouldn’t treat me like this,” and “Anna is different,” when they weren’t even on friendly terms with each other yet!!
- I loved Anna and Eliza, but their relationship was heavy with insta-love. And I would’ve been fine with that, because hello? It’s sapphic. But it’s obvious that their relationship was developed more quickly than it should’ve been for the sake of plot convenience. You mean to tell me that Eliza [redacted] after interacting with Anna less than ten times?
Sorry this post is gigantic!! But it’s the result of weeks of preparation and hours of writing, so I hope you enjoyed it!
Please don’t hesitate to tell me what you think of Caitlin Reads…! I’m so excited to have finally launched it after hinting at it in my 2020 goals! And of course, please check out the four book bloggers featured in this post if you haven’t yet. They are some of the kindest people out there, with some of the best content you’ll ever read. ❤